By Region VII External Affairs
Members of the Department of Homeland Security Surge Capacity Force met with Beth Freeman, FEMA Region VII Administrator, March 15, to talk deployment experiences, lessons learned and life-changing encounters gleaned from their response to Hurricane Sandy.
Staff from the National Processing and National Records Centers in Kansas City comprised a portion of the more than 500 DHS employees deployed to New York to assist with various response and recovery efforts.
During the two hour roundtable discussion individuals spoke to the many challenges and for some, “ah-hah” moments that occurred, solidifying not only the magnitude of the job at hand, but perhaps the even greater need their presence was helping to fill. The interactive forum provided an invaluable opportunity for real, unfiltered discussions – conversations Freeman indicated are critical to examining the current structure of the Surge program and in making smart decisions to improve the program going forward.
Among the discussions, some of the most prominent challenges identified included:
- The need to expand the current pre-deployment training structure; specifically, allot Surge members adequate time and exposure to key concepts and operational practices
- The importance of identifying and/or assessing individuals’ skill sets prior to assigning Surge members to particular programs and/or work assignments
- Ensure that once deployed, staffs’ time is being used appropriately, is consistently monitored for efficacy, and work assignments are reflective of the existing needs in the field
Freeman closed the roundtable by thanking the team for their selfless service to not only their agency, but also the survivors of New York and their surrounding DHS colleagues.
“In the future, we here in FEMA Region VII will continue to explore how we can best meet the training needs of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services staff prior to a disaster, particularly around the intricacies of FEMA programs - Individual Assistance, Public Assistance, and Mitigation, which in some cases can be quite complex.” Freeman remarked.
Freeman also explained how the region could certainly benefit from utilizing Surge members from the USCIS for local incidents: an opportunity that would aid not only the region’s existing force structure for disaster response and recovery, but also aid the Surge members in gaining additional practice and exposure to FEMA operations.